The Just Read One Sedgwick Story Challenge (by June 2017)

The goal of this challenge: To raise public awareness of the writings of Massachusetts Sedgwick author Catharine Maria Sedgwick (1789-1867), whose 20 books and over 150 short stories earned her national recognition and international fame in the nineteenth century as one of the founders of American fiction (including literature for children).


Background:  The literary recovery of Sedgwick’s writings and reputation has been progressing steadily since the first new edition of her novel Hope Leslie in 1987. Her work is now included in all the major anthologies of American literature for college-level study, but elementary- and secondary-level teachers and the general public remain less aware of her work. Sedgwick wrote for very young readers as well as mature readers. This challenge invites readers of all ages and from all walks of life to read (or listen to) one of Sedgwick’s stories, and then to share their responses, questions, and thoughts, which will (with permission) be posted to a website aiming to promote the reading and teaching of Sedgwick’s work.



  1. A volunteer steps forward who is willing to read (and possibly transcribe) one of Sedgwick’s stories, and contacts Professor Lucinda Damon-Bach, English Department, Salem State University: (978) 542-6377.
  2. Professor Damon-Bach will help you to select a story appropriate to your anticipated audience and provide you with a photocopy of the story (from its 19th-century source).
  3. After reading (and possibly transcribing) the story (see specific transcription advice below), the volunteer practices reading the story aloud, and prepares some questions to ask after sharing the story with his/her audience (whether children, friends, family members, elders, etc.).
  4. The volunteer reads the story aloud to his/her audience, and afterward records (or asks listeners to record) some of their thoughts, questions, and reactions.
  5. The volunteer then writes up the read-aloud event, describing his/her audience (approximate age-range, gender/race, setting), and summarizing the audience’s reactions to the story, quoting some of the individual questions and responses, if possible (citing names is optional, depending on permission of auditors). Please include any written responses, if applicable).
  6. This descriptive transcript (as Word document, please) is then e-mailed to Professor Damon-Bach, who will arrange to have the responses and any teaching ideas/recommendations posted on the Society website


Sample Reading Response Questions to Ask Your Audience:

1. How does this story connect to you personally, to our world, to other stories you’ve read or heard?

2. What questions do you have about this story?

3. What parts of the story are different from (or similar to) life today, and what did you learn or wonder about that?

4. What ideas do you have about how to teach this story?

5. Who would you recommend this story to, and why? And of course any questions of your own design!